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On the morning of Tuesday October 16, 1962, President John F. Kennedy was reading the Tuesday morning newspapers in his bed at the Whitehouse. Not twenty fours hours before, McGeorge Bundy, Kennedy's national security adviser, received the results of Major Richard S. Heyser's U-2 mission over San Cristobal Cuba. In light of recent mysterious Soviet and Cuban activities developing in the Caribbean Sea and Atlantic Ocean, the president's administration had given the order to conduct reconnaissance missions over the island of Cuba. In particular a fifty-mile trapezoidal swath of territory in western Cuba was to be looked upon under intense scrutiny. A CIA agent reported in the second week of September that this stretch of land was being guarded closely by Peruvian, Colombian, and actual Soviet soldiers. There was a real reason to be suspicious of the activity in western Cuba. The first of this U-2 reconnaissance mission would reveal a shocking discovery.(Chang & William p.33-47)
The U-2 reconnaissance reports that Bundy received in full detail two 70-foot-long MRBMs at San Cristobal. The news that Bundy would eventually have to expose to President Kennedy would sound alarms not just in his administration or in the United States of America, but throughout the entire world. Bundy did not tell the president that night. He opted to allow him a good night's rest, the last he would have for some time, as it turned out. Bundy felt there was nothing the president could do about the missiles that night anyway, and he would need to be sharp the next morning.(Brugioni p.68) Besides Bundy and the leadership of the U.S. intelligence community, Dean Rusk and his team at State, as well as McNamara and the deputy secretary of defense, Roswell Gilpatric, received word of the U-2's discovery before going to bed on October 15. Kennedy's discovery of the missiles could wait till the next morning.(May & Zelikow p.24)
Thus on the morning of October 16, while Kennedy was lying in bed, Bundy informed that the U-2 mission that flew over Cuba had spotted two nuclear missiles and six missile transports southwest of Havana. Before the summer of that same year had ended, Khrushchev had made the twin promise that "nothing will be undertaken before the American Congressional elections that could complicate the international situation or aggravate the tension in the relations between our two countries," and ensured the president through his own brother Robert F. Kennedy, the attorney general of the United States and the president's closet advisor by means of a back channel, that only defensive weapons were to be placed in Cuba.(Brugioni p56) This last and final statement left the young attorney general and the entire administration to believe that no offensive nuclear missiles, and certainly no weapons that were capable of hitting any target in the continental United States were being placed in Cuba at this time.(Chang & William p67)
The news brought to the Kennedy administration in the form of the U-2's telltale photographs made nonsense of both of Khrushchev's pledges. But most importantly the Soviet Union had equipped Cuba with an arsenal of Soviet nuclear missiles despite a presidential statement only a month early that the United States would not tolerate such a situation in the Western Hemisphere. Kennedy felt personally insulted by the deployment of these missiles.(Fursenko & Naftali p.193) He thought that he had done everything possible to defuse and smooth over tense relations with the Soviet Union even before he took office in 1960. This devastating news from Cuba would result in the tense period in Cold War history to date and perhaps its tensest period in the entire history of the war.
Kennedy decided limit the information regarding the devastating news from Cuba to as small a group as possible. This group would come to be known as the Executive Committee of the National Security Council, or as it would later be known and shortened to simply Ex Comm.(Brugioni p.45) This would be the group of Washington's sharpest and most influential minds that would more or less decide the fate of the nation and the world. A heavy responsibility would be carried on their shoulders. If they failed they we would take the entire nation with them.
The group would come to include Charles Bohlen, the old Kremlin hand who was recently named U.S. ambassador to France. Beside Bohlen it would include Secretary of State Dean Rusk, as well as Undersecretary of State George Ball and Assistant Secretary of State for Latin America Edwin M. Martin, as well as Ambassador at Large Llewellyn Thompson. Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara and his deputies Roswell Gilpatric and Paul Nitze represented the Defense Department. John McCone, head of the CIA, away on an urgent family matter, was replaced by his deputy Marshall "Pat" Carter, and the CIA was also represented by the head of the NPIC, Arthur Lundahl,
Names mentioned in this term paper
Robert Kennedy, Kennedy, Georgi Bolshakov, Nikita S. Khrushchev, Frank Holeman, Robert McNamara, Bobby, McGeorge Bundy, Dean Rusk,
Organizations included in this term paper
Kennedy administration, CIA,
Locations mentioned in this essay
Soviet Union, United States of America, the Cubans, Washington, Moscow, America,
Keywords referenced in this essay
United States, soviet, Cuba, Soviet Union, air strike, Kennedy administration, Khrushchev, nuclear missiles, President Kennedy, blockade, attorney general, soviet intelligence, naval blockade, missile, Comm, meetings, intelligence officer, continental united states, back channel, ballistic missiles, Soviet Premier, Naftali, missile crisis, Soviet military intelligence, Kremlin, Dean Rusk, reconnaissance missions, McGeorge Bundy, American navy, communist cuba, White House, nuclear weapons, Washington, intelligence agent, medium range ballistic missile, Moscow, Treasury Secretary, intelligence agency, Anatoly Dobrynin, Roswell Gilpatric, Llewellyn Thompson, brother robert, nuclear test ban treaty, American government, United States Navy, Cold War, Cuban Missile, Atlantic Ocean, covert operations, Robert McNamara,